Lucas remembered the first time he met Joe. He was a gangly thirteen year-old and Joe automatically became his hero. For a long time, that had satisfied Lucas, the strange mix of father/boss/brother/best friend that Joe was to him, gave him a feeling of contentment and belonging. Lucas had loved Joe for a lot of reasons, for a very long time. It was the day he turned nineteen that he realised he loved Joe.
Realising he was in love with Joe had scared Lucas. First, because it forced him to admit to himself at least that he was gay. Lucas wasn't a dumb kid, being gay petrified him. He kept wondering for months after the realisation, if people could tell, if people would know, just by looking at him, if he was gay, when no one said anything, Lucas began to feel relieved, but it brought up a whole lot of other things to be worried about. If people didn't know, was he supposed to tell them? Which of his friends would hate him the most? Would Joe fire him? Kick him out?
Joe asked him, about four months after his nineteenth birthday, if he'd take out Hannah. Hannah was a nice girl, Joe's girlfriend Amy's little sister. Lucas nodded and tried to show the girl a good time, but when she'd kissed him and he pushed her away, he'd earned himself a slap in the face and moved out of Joe's that weekend. Joe had asked him why; Lucas had looked him in the face and lied. "I'm a big boy Joe, I need my own space." Lucas still thinks Joe thought he'd slept with Hannah and Lucas never told him otherwise.
Amy kicked Joe out the week before Lucas turned twenty and for three days Joe slept on the couch in his office, until Lucas worked up the nerve to offer him the couch in his apartment. Lucas has no idea how he survived that month, how he didn't pounce on Joe, because he wanted to, constantly he wanted to, but he'd somehow held back.
By the time Joe had gotten a new apartment, Lucas was certain, once and for all, that he'd gotten his 'crush' for Joe out of his system. He figured he'd passed his hardest test, when he'd seen Joe coming out of the shower still wet and wearing nothing but a towel. If he'd resisted that, resisted having the man so close for so long and *not* destroyed their friendship, then it was a strong indication he could keep doing so on a day to day basis. Lucas smiled proudly at himself in a mirror each morning and went to work. And if he still occasionally slipped up and wondered if Joe's hair would feel as soft as it looked, or if his arms would feel as secure as he imagined, well that was to be expected.
When Lucas had turned 21, he went away for the weekend. He told no one where he was going and he and his bike went to New York. The clubs were a shock, but Lucas was determined, he was over Joe, no matter what his heart told him and even if he wasn't Joe was never going to see him that way. He met Michael, who was far more feminine than Lucas liked, but who had eyes that he'd later admit reminded him of Joe's. Lucas had always regretted that night.
After that, Lucas had stayed away from clubs, pushing his sexuality and anything to do with it into a box at the back of his mind, clearly stamped 'avoid at all costs'.
It was actually surprisingly easy, he'd never really been 'out' so going back in was as easy as just staying in on a Friday and Saturday night, or volunteering to work. Volunteering… okay that hadn't worked so well. Not recently anyway.
Lucas woke up now every morning surprised he still had a job. Surprised by how 'normal' everything was after all that had happened. All that *he'd* done.
AJ and Corey were going off to Boston to school. Deb hadn't tried to kill herself lately. Mark was… well he was Mark. Berko was still Berko. Gina seemed happier than she had in a long time. Joe had Jane.
Jane. Lucas liked her, really he did and he was glad Joe had someone, because he deserved it, but it didn't mean Lucas didn't hurt every time he saw them together. Oh they weren't *obvious*. There was never any 'lovey stuff' as Mark called it, going on in the store, but they were always talking, laughing. One thing all that had happened changed was Lucas' ability to lie to himself about how he felt about Joe.
Lucas loved Joe. Was in love with Joe. And no matter how hard he'd tried to deny it or ignore it for the previous two and a half years, it wasn't going to change or go away.
He'd told Joe, that he'd known he wasn't happy and it was true, Lucas had known, had seen it in Joe's eyes a thousand times and he'd wanted to make that sad, almost trapped look go away.
His 'plan' had flopped miserably though. He suspected, he was being generous to himself even calling it a plan. If it hadn't been for Mark's crazy, actually helpful, plan, they'd all work for music town right now, or more likely, all be unemployed.
Joe was happier now though, he had his store, *his* store, he had Jane and he was happier. Lucas vowed he wouldn't destroy that, no matter what it took, no matter how much it hurt, he wouldn't screw up things for Joe again. He'd do everything he could to keep Joe happy and if that meant smiling and telling Joe that Jane was a nice girl, perfect for him, burying the pain of his own breaking heart under the pleasure of seeing Joe happy, then he could do that. For Joe.